Homeless U.S. Veterans

The problem of homelessness among veterans is a big one. The VA served more than 92,000 homeless veterans. With an estimated 500,000 veterans homeless at some time during the year, the VA reaches 20% of those in need, leaving 400,000 veterans without supportive services.

VA Homeless official site: VA Homeless

The vast majority of homeless veterans (96%) are single males from poor, disadvantaged communities. Homeless veterans have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America.

  • The number of homeless female veterans is on the rise: in 2006, there were 150 homeless female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; in 2011, there were 1,700. That same year, 18% of homeless veterans assisted by the VA were women. Comparison studies conducted by HUD show that female veterans are two to three times more likely to be homeless than any other group in the US adult population.
  • Veterans between the ages of 18 and 30 are twice as likely as adults in the general population to be homeless, and the risk of homelessness increases significantly among young veterans who are poor.
  • Roughly 56% of all homeless veterans are African-American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8% and 15.4% of the U.S. population respectively.
  • About 53% of individual homeless veterans have disabilities, compared with 41%of homeless non-veteran individuals.
  • Half suffer from mental illness; two-thirds suffer from substance abuse problems; and many from dual diagnosis (which is defined as a person struggling with both mental illness and a substance abuse problem).
  • Homeless veterans tend to experience homelessness longer than their non-veteran peers: Veterans spend an average of nearly six years homeless, compared to four years reported among non-veterans.
  • Veterans are 50% more likely to become homeless than other Americans due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
  • About 1.5 million veterans are considered at-risk of homelessness. At risk is defined as being below the poverty level and paying more than 50% of household income on rent. It also includes households with a member who has a disability, a person living alone, and those who are not in the labor force.
    • Research shows that the greatest risk factors for homelessness are lack of support and social isolation after discharge. Veterans have low marriage rates and high divorce rates; and, currently, 1 in 5 veterans is living alone. Social networks are particularly important for those who have a crisis or need temporary help. Without this assistance, they are at high risk for homelessness.
    • Nearly half a million (467,877) veterans are severely rent burdened and paying more than 50% of their income for rent. More than half (55%) of veterans with severe housing cost burden fell below the poverty level and 43% receive food stamps.
    • Approximately 45% of the 1.6 million veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking disability compensation.  The average wait to get a disability claim processed is now eight months. Payments range from $127/month for a 10% disability to $2,769 for a full disability.

References:

  1. “Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans,” The Homelessness Research Institute at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Nov. 2007.
  2. “Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education And Networking Group (CHALENG) For Veterans. The Fourteenth Annual Progress Report On Public Law 105-114. Services For Homeless Veterans Assessment And Coordination.” February 28, 2008.
    http://www1.va.gov/homeless/docs/CHALENG_14th_annual_Rpt_7-7-08.pdf
  3. “Is Homelessness a Housing Problem?” Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives. Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997.
  4. National Survey of Homeless Veterans in 100,000 Homes Campaign Communities, 100,000 Homes, November 2011.
  5. Veteran Homelessness: A supplemental Report to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 2009
  6. The Center for American Progress
    http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2001/11/veterans_ day.html
  7. Sandy Leeds, lecturer, the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

UPDATE: Tiny homes helps homeless veterans get new lease on life By Rob Hughes, 9News

Local homeless veterans have a new lease on life and they have a new home thanks to the Veteran’s Community Project.

The local charity provides transitional “tiny homes” to homeless veterans, and there was a ribbon cutting Monday to celebrate 13 veterans moving into Veterans Village off of East 89th and Troost.

One of the veterans that got a new home was Marvin Gregory, who served in the Army. Now Gregory has a home for his kids.

“It’s a life-changing thing for me,” Army veteran Marvin Gregory said. “I’ve lived pretty hard for some years now. I have hope. They’ve given me hope. They let me know that folks still do care and you can make it.”

The ribbon-cutting was an emotional move-in ceremony. Now Gregory and the other veterans can look forward to things like starting a new career.

“I try to keep myself together, stay focused and remember what I’m made of and where I come from,” Gregory said. “I’m going to get down on my knees and say a prayer and thank God for this, because this is a really big blessing.”

The tiny homes are made possible by community donations. Veterans Community Project also provides resources to help veterans get back on their feet.

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